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What Happens When You Die Without a Will: Navigating Intestacy

Planning for the future is essential, and one crucial aspect is creating a will. However, many individuals overlook this important task, leaving their estate’s distribution uncertain upon their death. This article explores the implications of dying without a will in British Columbia, Canada, and sheds light on the intestacy laws that govern the distribution of assets in such cases.

Intestacy Laws in British Columbia

When someone dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” In British Columbia, intestacy laws, specifically the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA), determine how the deceased person’s assets will be distributed.

Distribution of Assets

The WESA provides a legal framework for the distribution of assets when there is no will. The assets are divided based on a predetermined order of priority among surviving family members, including spouses, children, parents, and other relatives.

Spouse or Domestic Partner

If the deceased person had a surviving spouse or domestic partner, they are entitled to a significant portion of the estate. The share may depend on whether there are children involved, and it can include the family home.


If there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, the estate is divided among the deceased person’s children. The children share the remaining assets equally, including real estate, investments, and personal belongings.


In the absence of a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children, the estate is distributed to the deceased person’s parents.

Siblings and Other Relatives

If there are no surviving parents, spouse, domestic partner, children, or grandchildren, the estate may be distributed among siblings, nieces, nephews, or other relatives as determined by the intestacy laws.

Appointment of an Administrator

When a person dies intestate, the court appoints an administrator to handle the estate’s distribution and administration. The administrator, often a family member or close relative, takes on the responsibility of identifying assets, paying debts, and distributing the remaining assets according to the law.

Considerations and Limitations

Dying without a will may result in unintended consequences, as the deceased person has no control over how their assets are distributed. The intestacy laws dictate the division of assets based on a predetermined formula, which may not align with the deceased person’s wishes.

Furthermore, without a will, there is no opportunity to name an executor, appoint guardians for minor children, or make specific bequests to individuals or charitable organizations. It is essential to recognize the limitations and potential complications that arise when dying intestate.

Creating a will provides individuals with the opportunity to have their final wishes honoured and ensure that their assets are distributed according to their specific instructions. It allows for greater control over the distribution of the estate, minimizes potential conflicts among family members, and provides clarity during an emotionally challenging time.


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Melissa has 8+ years of combined Commercial, Business and Contract Law experience as In-House Counsel in manufacturing, health, real estate development, and broadcast communication industries. She is instrumental in developing strategies to minimize legal risk and ensure regulatory compliance.

She has 6+ years of Human Resources Management experience and a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation. Her practice includes Family Law, Civil Litigation, Wills & Estates and Real Estate & Conveyancing.

For fun, she visits ancient sites and ruins and belts out popular Broadway tunes.

northam law corporation

Northam Law is a boutique law firm offering advisory services in Real Estate Law and Conveyancing, Business Law, and Human Resources. Our practice areas also include Wills & Estates and Family Law. Notarization services are also available.

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